From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Bohjalian (Law of Similars
) has built a reputation on his rich characters and immersing readers in diverse subjects—homeopathy, animal rights activism, midwifery—and his latest surely won't disappoint. The morning after her baptism into the Rev. Stephen Drew's Vermont Baptist church, Alice Hayward and her abusive husband are found dead in their home, an apparent murder-suicide. Stephen, the novel's first narrator, is so racked with guilt over his failure to save Alice that he leaves town. Soon, he meets Heather Laurent, the author of a book about angels whose own parents' marriage also ended in tragedy. Stephen's deeply sympathetic narration is challenged by the next two narrators: deputy state attorney Catherine Benincasa, whose suspicions are aroused initially by Stephen's abrupt departure (and then by questions about his relationship with Alice), and Heather, who distances herself from Stephen for similar reasons and risks the trip into her dark past by seeking out Katie, the Haywards' now-orphaned 15-year-old daughter who puts into play the final pieces of the puzzle, setting things up for a touching twist. Fans of Bohjalian's more exotic works will miss learning something new, but this is a masterfully human and compassionate tale. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Bohjalian skillfully intertwines different narrators and their conflicting perspectives on the same events to build tension and suspense. While the critics agreed that each voice is distinct, they did not consider the narrators equally convincing--particularly Reverend Drew (too detached and self-centered) and Catherine (too clichÃ©d as the tough-as-nails attorney). Additionally, the Washington Post found Bohjalian's portrait of domestic violence somewhat flat and formulaic. Others, however, thought he tackled the subject with compassion and tact, and nearly all cited Heather's memories of her parents' marriage as some of the novel's most harrowing passages. Overall, Secrets of Eden is the enjoyable thrilleresque novel that readers have come to expect from Bohjalian.